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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*Wide Awake* by David Levithan- young adult book review
Also by David Levithan:

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List
Wide Awake
by David Levithan
Grades 9+ 240 pages Knopf September 2006 Hardcover    

Teenagers Jimmy and Duncan are among the millions of others in America who are thrilled about Abraham Stein's election as the first gay Jewish president. Duncan himself is both gay and Jewish, so it's especially important to him. However, things might not be as great as they seem.

In Kansas, the governor is demanding that the votes be recounted. If Stein loses there, he loses the election. When they learn of this, Duncan, Jimmy, and their friends, along with Stein supporters from across the nation, pack up their lives and leave for Kansas, where they will support Stein in the face of corruption and possible dishonest vote counting. They are a part of history in the making.

It's not just about politics, though; Jimmy and Duncan are also dealing with their own relationship, figuring out themselves as well as the entire country. For many of their friends, it's the same; their trip to Kansas has them all dealing not only with political issues, but personal ones as well. Keisha and Mira, always seen by Jimmy and Duncan as the perfect couple, are having problems. Sue, a young boy picked up along the way, wants to find his father, who is now a woman. Another boy wants to be Jewish, but his parents won't let him. Even though their personal problems are different, Governor Roberts has caused a big problem that's bringing them all together in an effort to fight against the injustice of the recount in Kansas.

Wide Awake is a wonderful book on two levels. One, it's a great what-if story, about what could happen in this country if someone different, say gay and Jewish like Stein, were to run for president - and win. His vice president, Alice Martinez, is a Latina woman, making her different as well. It was a big step for the people of this country to elect a Catholic president; it's hard to imagine many of them voting for a gay Jewish president. Or an African-American president, a woman president, a Latino president...American voters don't seem to be a particularly tolerant lot.

David Levithan's novel is also a coming-of-age story. The journey to Kansas is a big one, in a lot of ways, for a lot of the people who put their lives on hold to support Abraham Stein. Duncan is just one of the thousands of people for whom this is an important journey. Duncan gets a chance to think about his family, his relationship with Jimmy, and himself. A lot can happen in a couple of days on a bus. A long trip can be a good chance to think things through, as Duncan and the others learn.

Wide Awake is filled with realistic, interesting characters. Each and every one of them is well-drawn and original. None of the characters populating this story seem at all two-dimensional, and there's a lot of potential for that to happen, as there are so many characters each making their own personal journeys. David Levithan does a brilliant job of making each of their stories matter in this book. In fact, he does a brilliant job with pretty much everything in Wide Awake; it's a wonderfully written novel not to be missed.

Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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